Seattle-based graphic artist Matthew Hollister is in the midst of a pretty ambitious personal art project: Illustrate every single active basketball player in the NBA during the 2013-2014 season. Starting in alphabetical order by last name, Hollister has already drawn more than 200 players in the league in his signature basketball card style. After creating each card, Hollister posts it on his Tumblr, Every Player in the League.
I spoke with Matthew to find out more about the project.
I read that "Every Player In the League" began as a joke idea. You had just finished a basketball-themed illustration project for the Portland Monthly and your friend joked that you should illustrate every player in the NBA. How did it go from a joke to an actual project that you wanted to accomplish? Have you ever attempted something on such a grand scale as this project?
It’s true that the project started out as a joking conversation between me and a friend. I obviously thought it was a good idea right off the bat, but doubted I would realistically take action. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of making my own set of cards. I loved basketball cards and almanacs as a kid, and was wondering what the equivalent was for kids today. I started to think that maybe young basketball fans collected Instagram feeds or Tumblr posts to follow their own fandom and learn about the game. I found a Tumblr theme that worked as a clean, no nonsense grid, and drew a card template that I could quickly adjust for every player and every team. It was still kind of a fluke, but then all of a sudden I had drawn all of the players whose last names started with “A”, and I thought well I can’t really stop now.
I'm assuming you're a big basketball fan? What's your relationship to the game?
Basketball has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up if I wasn’t drawing pictures I was playing basketball. When I moved to Brooklyn to attend Pratt Institute, literally nothing changed. I was either in class drawing, or playing basketball at the gym or at any given court around the city. Nowadays in Seattle I still get to play once a week or so, and in the winters I have season tickets to the University of Washington.
Who is your favorite player? Who was the most fun to illustrate so far?
Growing up my favorite player was Chris Mulllin, and lately I really root for guys from Seattle that are in the NBA. I think I’ve had the most fun illustrating Nerlens Noel so far. He’s a pretty iconic looking character, and a friend of mine in Philadelphia had been waiting for months for me to get to the letter N, so I was excited that he was excited.
How long does it take for you to illustrate one player? Is your process completely digital?
Right now my routine is to try and knock a card out first thing in the morning while I have a cup of coffee. I like to keep each drawing as close to 30 minutes as possible, but if a player has a ton of tattoos it’ll take me a bit longer. My process is totally digital. I have a pretty solid routine now so the whole process is pretty streamlined. It better be after 325 drawings.
Your website mentions that you're a new father - Congrats! It seems like being a new dad would make it really hard to make time for personal projects. How has fatherhood affected your work (if at all)?
I am a new father! I guess the biggest impact my daughter has had on my work is that I’d rather be with her than working. But I’m an early riser and luckily she likes to sleep a bit extra in the morning. I get my personal work done nice and early so that when she wakes up I can spend time with her and make breakfast for me and my wife. Then when my daughter goes down for her first nap, I’m off to the studio for my actual days work.
Check out whether Hollister has illustrated your favorite NBA player yet.